The Guinness World Records, as most of us know, is an interesting compilation of people who have amazing characteristics about themselves. Some were born with a certain condition, others continually get, for example, piercings all over their body in order to hold the title of “Most Pierced women in the world”. This show, which introduced the general public to people beating records live before our eyes, used to fascinate me in my childhood, but now I more so see it as a modern day freak show.
The golden age of the freak show was from year 1870-1920. Carnival and circus showcases then featuring what they would call “freaks of nature”, people with extraordinary characteristics such us impressive height or a parasitic twin attached to their back, were the entertainment of choice for many people of those days. Nowadays, laws prohibit the exhibition of people with deformities (in the United States, at the least), but we still have the Guiness Book of Records. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, since obviously some of these people chose to portray themselves in a certain way for fame however short-lived. Sure there are titles like highest-paid couple or the most searched-for female on Google, however it is the ones such as boy and girl with most toes and fingers, world’s hairiest man (his hair grew so long that it somehow gave him partial hair loss), tree man and oldest living conjoined twins that leave me a little uneasy. These are people who in their normal day to day get gawked at and, depending on the level of superstition present in their society, are linked to witchcraft or other evil elements of the supernatural. In the meanwhile, we the viewers are also able to gawk and possibly thank our stars that we were born “normal”.
‘Tis a strange culture indeed.
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